Sights set on China after patent confirmation

2nd August 2016
Anna Flockett

UK based developer of the truFLEX semiconductor platform, for the manufacture of flexible displays and electronics, SmartKem, has had notification of patent allowance for semiconductor material in China, a key market for the roll-out of its technology platform with display manufacturers across Asia.

This comes at a time when analysts predict a $28.7bn investment in Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) production across South Korea, Japan and China in 2016-2017 and SmartKem, the leading manufacturer of organic semiconductor materials, is now strengthening its position within the OLED display industry in China.

Currently serving 90% of today’s OLED market, Samsung, is a strong competitor that is beginning to emerge from China. Indeed, Chinese panel manufacturers are beginning to switch investments from building LCD facilities to new OLED facilities with many manufacturers setting their sights on new application markets for rigid and importantly, flexible OLED based display product.

Steve Kelly, CEO and founder of SmartKem, said that successful collaboration is crucial in helping China to become a key stakeholder and competitor in the global OLED display industry.

Kelly added that as the Chinese OLED industry matures, China’s capabilities in both traditional and flexible OLED production will only increase as it turns its focus to designing and developing its own products rather than manufacturing someone else’s. “There is a clear commitment to encourage high-tech research and development and there are benefits in place to incentivise innovation and high technological standards.”

“Our new patent allowance places SmartKem in an excellent position to consolidate and strengthen our existing position within the Chinese display sector with our ground-breaking semiconductor platform,” Kelly stated.

Additionally he said that China no longer wants to be seen as simply the ‘production house of the world’. It now wants to be at the forefront of technological innovation, supporting value-added industries, to spur its economy. “Global partnerships within the display supply chain are essential to open up new opportunities for both Chinese and overseas companies; while China can gain an incredible advantage from overseas innovations in new materials, foreign companies are also very much aware that they need China to provide a market. It is clear from current and planned Chinese investment they intend to be a key player in this arena.”

SmartKem delivers world-class organic semiconductor materials for the low temperature, solution-coat manufacture of thin film transistors for the production of flexible displays and electronics. It has a world-class patent portfolio and a number of high profile joint development agreements in place with Asian display manufacturers. Its truFLEX organic semiconductor ink technology offers manufacturers a critical advantage in creating the next generation of ultra-flexible, low power and low cost OLED displays.

The company, headquartered in St Asaph, North Wales and with its Technology Centre based in Hexagon Tower, Manchester, UK, recently reported a new world record for the speed at which its truFLEX technology works in transistor form, achieving frequencies above 500kHz.

It is the highest performance reported to date and not only shows the suitability of truFLEX for the manufacture of integrated line drivers for 4K2K displays but also opens the door to a myriad of new applications for solution coat manufacture of flexible electronics.

Kelly continued that these are exciting times and this type of result shows how far organic semiconductors have come as an industry-viable technology platform and is a testament to SmartKem’s world beating end-to-end or ‘molecule to market’ capability in material and transistor expertise. “It emphasises the enabling nature of materials innovation and its unique position in enabling the growth of the flexible display industry.”

“The UK has a long heritage as a pioneer of high value chemicals and materials. China is a highly valued and important region for SmartKem; we’re excited about meeting the needs of this high growth sector through our strategic partnerships. The unique properties of our semiconductor platform will truly enable the future of the flexible display and electronics industries,” Kelly added.

“Whilst our primary target applications include new wearable technologies, mobile devices, automotive, embedded and transparent displays our technology is a key enabler for the many products that are helping to build the IoT, such as gesture and touch control, fingerprint recognition and wide range of sensor applications.”

Kelly concluded by stating that the global market for OLED and flexible OLED however, are set to grow rapidly in the next two to three years and it’s very much focused on the industrialisation and commercialisation of the truFLEX organic semiconductors to enhance and further strengthen the position in this sector. “Patent allowance in key territories within Asia such as China is an important milestone in achieving wide scale market adoption of our technology platform.”

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